Big man Tyson Chandler was brought to New York primarily to become a defensive force of nature in the paint, and the Knicks center proved he did just that on Wednesday, winning the Defensive Player of the Year award—the first in team history.
“I think that’s a lot of why I’m getting the recognition, is because I’m kind of able to change the culture, I’ve been able to change the culture along with my teammates and coaching staff,” Chandler said, according to the Associated Press.
His 311 points and 45-first place votes was enough to beat out Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka (294 points) and Orlando’s Dwight Howard (186 points).
Chandler was able to do what no Knicks coach or player has done since coach Jeff Van Gundy left the Knicks, and that’s inspire the rest of the team to actually guard the other team.
And the numbers suggest Chandler rose the occasion.
This season, the Knicks ranked 10th in opponent field goal percentage and 11th in opponent scoring. When Chandler wasn’t in the Knicks lineup, the defense suffered mightily, surrendering on average 22.5 more points per game, and shooting 52 percent from the field, opposed to 43 percent shooting when the big man was on the court.
“To me it’s really a team thing,” Chandler said. “I know I’m here to accept as an individual but it’s definitely a team award.”
For most of the second-half of the season, Chandler’s name was brought up every time the award was mentioned, and he never shied away from saying how bad he wanted to take home the trophy, even though it’s an individual award.
“I never set out for individual goals except for this one, because I felt like Defensive Player of the Year, you’re changing something and you’re helping win ballgames,” he said.
-With Associated Press